My personal beliefs in cardio are very varied. I find that cardio does a lot of different things to my body; some affect me well and others don’t affect me as much. I will share with you my personal experience with cardio.
First of all, you better explain what cardio is. Cardio in my books is any activity that lasts for a long period of time (say 10 minutes) that uses large amounts of energy. This could be anything from running on a treadmill, jumping rope, or even doing manual labor. I will say that some of the best cardio sessions I have ever been involved in were climbing stacks of shingles up a ladder all day! Other people’s opinion may differ and not include outside work, but it all does the same thing – burns calories. However, for the purposes of this article, I will be talking about cardiovascular exercise that is done in the gym.
The Good: Cardio is the healthiest exercise you can do for your body. I have no doubt in my mind about this as it is what strengthens your heart. You can live without bulging biceps, but you have absolutely no luck without a good heart. I recommend doing cardio every day, even if it’s just for ten minutes. Go for a run on the treadmill in the morning to start your day, or go for a thirty-minute walk after work to get your heart rate up a bit. Cardio is always necessary, even if some of us don’t like it (including me). Where some people seem to get confused is in the amount of cardio they should be doing. Let me explain:
If you’re trying to get bigger, you should do a little less cardio, especially if you’re having trouble eating enough to do it. To gain size, you must be in a caloric surplus (eating more calories than you burn in a day). If you’re doing large amounts of cardio while trying to gain weight, you’ll need to eat more. While I’ve never had a problem with my appetite, I know plenty of people who do. They keep their cardio to a minimum when trying to bulk up because they have trouble consuming enough calories. I also recommend doing cardio after weight training in this situation. I’m a firm believer that weights should come first, so you can put your best effort into them. Long-distance cardio exercises, like running on a treadmill, don’t require much effort, so they can be done after lifting weights. There is also another secret that I strongly believe in. Since I know everyone eats breakfast before lifting weights (if you don’t read my blog post about eating breakfast before lifting weights), you get additional benefit from your workout by doing cardio afterwards. Because doing cardio increases blood flow and blood supply to your muscles, you can more easily get the nutrients your overworked muscles need. This will help your muscles get stronger and repair faster. In my personal experience, it hurts less when I do cardio after a workout than when I don’t. Honestly, it’s pretty amazing. In my personal experience, when I’m bulking up, I like to do 10 minutes of cardio 5 days a week (I only do weight lifting Monday through Friday). Sometimes I do more on the weekend, but I have an appetite to make up for it.
Second, you may be trying to lose weight. In this case, I recommend more cardio. As I mentioned in some of my previous articles, calories vs. calories out is the name of the game for weight loss. You should consume fewer calories than you burn in a day. This is where cardio really shines in the eyes of most people. Take, for example, someone like me who loves to eat (I really do love to eat; it can be a real problem when trying to diet). If I need to consume 2,000 calories to lose weight, I can simply eat 2,500 calories and do 500 calories of cardio to hit my 2,000 calorie mark. Quite simply, doing cardio while trying to lose weight helps them feel more satisfied throughout the day. Instead of eating nothing but salad, throw a baked potato into the mix (potatoes are loaded with potassium, by the way, which helps reduce the chance of muscle cramps). All you have to do is increase your cardio to reach your weight loss goals! Don’t get out of control though, as I wouldn’t recommend doing more than 30 minutes of cardio every day. When I’m trying to get back in shape for the summer, I usually do about 20 minutes of cardio every day of the week. I run at a decent pace (normally around 6 miles per hour), but I feel like that’s a lot of cardio. If I engage in any extra cardio I tend to feel very drained as my body cannot recover as well in a calorie deficit.
I also forgot to mention that your cardio pace also makes a big difference when calculating my recommended times. If you prefer walking for cardio, you can do it much longer than my recommended times, since you burn far fewer calories per minute. You will have to go longer than my recommended times to achieve the same results. Another thing to note is dealing with daily activities. If you’re a construction worker, you’ll probably need to do little or no additional cardio to achieve the desired results. If you’re trying to gain weight and stay healthy, I’d say it’s probably a good thing. If you’re trying to lose weight, you may need extra cardio, but not much.
Again, as I always like to point out, none of this is gospel. Results will vary depending on your body, but I think this is a great guide to start with. Stay safe and happy lifting!